This year's Cinemalaya, coming out of its one year hiatus, was a year of testing the waters. Despite the extended time of production for all the films, there wasn't really much of a noticeable difference, quality-wise, compared to other editions of the festival. With a few interesting exceptions (Kusina and the animated sections of Tuos comes to mind), there wasn't a lot of experimentation going on with the form, even with the short film entries. Also, nothing amazing really stood out this year for me, a continuing trend for Philippine Cinema.
To its credit, however, all of the films in this fest have something going for them, and even the worst films of this year's slate are better than the worst films of other editions of the festival. The festival's selection of films from its previous catalog and from other film festivals such as Cinema One Originals, Eiga Sai and QCinema were solid. The NETPAC selection of Asian films was also quite good (I saw everything except River Road, Until I Lose My Breath and Under Heaven) although their selected entries tended to be quite depressing.
I'm also glad to see lots of familiar faces in the festival, and though we rarely spoke, cinema is our common tongue. The differences of reactions for multiple films is also nice to see. Homogenous opinions are boring to me; variety keeps the discourse going.
Here are my thoughts about this year's winners. Comments are in italics.
Audience choice short feature film: Cyrus Valdez, Forever Natin
I predicted something like this would happen, since most of the crowds going into this fest seem to be young millennials, and this film's tailor made for them and not for curmudgeonly people like myself.
Audience choice feature film: Tuos
Never underestimate the power of Noranians. Never. Also, it helps that Tuos is such a lovely film.
Best screenplay for short film feature: Isabel Quesada, Pektus
Best short film: Isabel Quesda, Pektus
Pektus was a quirky, clever film. I was rooting for the other two shorts that won awards last night, but this is still in my top selection.
Special jury prize, short feature film: Fish Out of Water
Best director, short feature film: Fish Out of Water, Mon A.L. Garilao
Fish Out of Water was my favorite out of all the shorts this year. It's technically sound, wonderfully shot, and exhibits a solid directorial hand for someone who's just starting out.
NETPAC Jury Prize, short feature film: Ang Maangas, Ang Marikit at Ang Makata
This was my second pick for this year's shorts festival, and before the awards night, there was a consensus that this would take home the best picture prize. It's a wonderful meld of different genres, and its director has a unique (very hilarious) cinematic voice. I look forward to future films.
Best sound full length feature film: Roderick Cabrido, Tuos
Best Original Music Score Full Length: Roderick Cabrido, Tuos
Best production design, full length feature film: Steff Dereja,Tuos
Best cinematography, full length feature film: Mycko David, Tuos
This year Mycko David has some impressive visual output, even with films I didn't like so much such as Iadya Mo Kami, so I thought his win in the cinematography category was well deserved. Tuos is such a poetic film, visually and aurally, that it deserved all of these technical awards. Its presentation turns the film from something simply noteworthy to something unforgettable.
Best editing, full length feature film: Carlo Francisco Manatad, Pamilya Ordinaryo
This award was no surprise as Manatad keeps the flow smooth, keeping the film energetic and far from boring.
Best performance from a supporting actor: Lou Veloso, Jun Urbano, Leo Rialp, and Nanding Josef, of Hiblang Abo
I was wondering how they would award best supporting actor, and this is how they did it. Indeed, Hiblang Abo depended not on any single performance, but on its ensemble cast (perhaps they should have retitled the award instead?) Matt Daclan, also from the same film, would have also made a good choice in my opinion.
Best performance from a supporting actress: Elizabeth Oropesa, I, America; Lollie Mara, Ang Bagong Pamilya ni Poching
While not a perfect film, I saw I America as an exercise in restraining the loud directorial style of Ivan Payawal's first film. Elizabeth Oropesa's role in I America was short, but her actions are the core of the movie's problems. It's a terrifically nuanced performance that's not as evil as the citation said.
As soon as I heard the opening narration of Ponching, I knew it was molded in the kind of Cinemalaya film that not a lot of people would like. But, heck, I enjoyed it anyway. The most notable character arc in the film was the story of the lola, played by Lollie Mara. She serves as the moral fulcrum of the story, an in-between for Ponching and the rest of his new family.
Best Actor: Tommy Abuel, Dagsin
On the other hand, as soon as I saw those books at the start of Dagsin, I was already rolling my eyes. Long story short, I didn't really like the film and felt it plodding and languid. But if there's one thing I can positively say about the film, it's that Tommy Abuel's performance in this movie was amazing. I've heard comparisons of the film to Ingmar Bergman, and those comparisons are not unwarranted.
Best Actress: Hasmine Killip, Pamilya Ordinaryo
This year's selection process for Best Actress was probably an extremely hard choice, because there were so many good performances this year. There was Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo and Bela Padilla, who practically carried Kusina and I America on their respective shoulders, Pokwang, who gave a surprisingly restrained yet comedic performance in Mercury is Mine (I'd thought she'd be the dark horse to take the title) and the duo of Nora Aunor and Barbie Forteza, the best actresses in their respective generations. But Hasmine Killip was so natural in her role as Jane Ordinaryo that it's impossible not to consider her for this award.
Special Jury Prize, full-length: Mercury is Mine
Best screenplay, full length feature: Jason Paul Laxamana, Mercury is Mine
Immediately after seeing Mercury is Mine, the ending of the film didn't sit well with me. But it lingered. And lingered. And once I saw how the pieces fit together, I decided that I liked it. So much so, that I thought it was one of the best films in the festival. It owes this accolade because of its witty script, which is dark and funny and unpredictable at the same time.
NETPAC prize, full-length: Pamilya Ordinaryo
Best full-length film: Pamilya Ordinaryo
Best director, full-length film: Eduardo Roy Jr (Pamilya Ordinaryo)
I thought Pamilya Ordinaryo was the most realized of all the films in this fest. Its direction comes from a director whose previous work has been a steady increase in quality. Everything in this film just clicks together - acting, technical work, screenplay - that the output can match some of the most notable Cinemalaya films.
Now that the festival's over, here are some miscellaneous musings on the festival on its twelfth year.
The Navigator thingy was an interesting idea. The concept was to have a couple of celebrity navigators serve as facilitators on selected screenings (culminating with with a small informal chat with a few directors during the latter half of the festival. It's a nice concept, but not a lot of people knew what it really was about. Screening schedules where the two navigators would appear were posted on the information kiosk on the ground floor, but if you weren't looking, you could go through the entire festival and not come across them. The Starbucks event was actually quite nice, if only it were a bigger venue. I miss the old days when gala premieres or even minor screenings would turn into a Q and A if the director or some of the cast were present. I say keep on doing this navigator thing, but raise awareness a bit and have a lot more of them. The old Cinemalaya film forum was also a nice program that kind of disappeared in recent editions of the festival.
The Barkada Screening option this year was a really fun idea, and I hope they keep it in for future editions of the fest. I wanted to avail of the option, but I don't really have many moviegoing friends. I'm forever alone like that.
The expansion of the fest to different provinces was also very welcome, and I hope even more movie theaters show Cinemalaya films in the future. I've heard of some technical difficulties in Ayala Cebu leading to cancelled screenings, but other than that there seemed to be no problems.
The inclement weather was unavoidable; you haven't been properly initiated into Cinemalaya unless you've waded through a flood or two on the way to the CCP. (Year 8 was probably the worst weather wise, ironic given the poster and theme for that year.)
The projectors at the CCP, especially at the main theater, were still a bit dark, which does no favors to movies that are darkly lit.
The food stalls in the CCP were quite nice. The stalls were mostly snacks and food you'd expect to eat at the movie theater (though you couldn't really bring food inside the theater unless you snuck it in.) There was a fried cheese stall that was there only for a few days, which I thought was a shame since I kind of liked the food. Best sellers (anecdotal evidence at best) included the Prince Fries stall, which was an ice tea and fries combo in one easy to bring package, the shawarma house and some of the rice in a box places. Personal favorites include the Pizzicle, which is basically a pizza on a popsicle. It surprisingly works.
But no other food stall had the massive balls to go to a film festival like Gardenia, maker of bread products. Among other snacky foods, they sold loaves of bread at the festival - the kind of bread that you can buy at a supermarket or convenience store. At first, it sounds quite baffling. At first, you'd wonder who the hell would be insane enough to buy a loaf of bread at a film festival.
|A match made in heaven.|
I did. And I made fucking sandwiches.
|Disclaimer: this article has not been sponsored by Gardenia in any way.|
That's the end of Cinemalaya 12. It's been an exhausting (but fun!) ten days. Next year is lucky number 13 for the festival. Until then, see you guys at the movies.